POWHATAN – For several months, Mike Henderson has been looking forward to leading the Powhatan Indians in that first-ever regular season game as their head coach.
The day he’s been waiting for is now only one day away - provided the weather cooperates - as Powhatan Football is slated to open its 2019 season at home versus Matoaca on Friday, Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s certainly an exciting time – I was driving home from a volleyball game last night with my daughter and she said: ‘It’s really cool to be able to come to a Powhatan game and see you coaching…’” Henderson said. “It’s just cool – it’s a family thing for us; football’s been an important part of our family.”
Henderson added that Powhatan is a “special community,” and for the longtime coach who won state championships with Powhatan County’s Blessed Sacrament Huguenot football team and also turned Douglas Freeman Football into a consistent winner, getting the chance to coach in front of that special community is a “special time.”
Powhatan’s upcoming opponent, helmed by second-year head football coach Justin Parker, is returning several of its skills position players from last season; the Warriors place emphasis on special teams, and Henderson expects the visitors to be well-balanced and extremely athletic.
“They’re always big up front…they’ve always got some skilled kids that are tough to contend with,” Henderson said. “It’s certainly going to be quite a challenge for your first game, to see a big division 5 team rolling in that’s got a lot of talent, a lot of size. But that kind of seems to be par for the course with our schedule this year, so we’re going to have to rise up. That’s what makes it a great sport and a great game, is trying to see if we can rise to that challenge week after week…”
With the graduation of starting quarterback Jacob Moss, starting running back Jacob Taylor and a majority of the offensive line, the Indians have a new-look offense to match the new-look coaching staff led by Henderson. Versatile athlete and junior Aaron Nash is the current starting quarterback, although Powhatan expects to also rotate in sophomore Hans Rehme into that position a little bit. Henderson noted they’re not afraid to start sophomore Rehme should there be a game in which Nash can give the Indians an advantage at wide receiver.
Henderson added that Nate Moyer had a great camp and has done a really good job for the team in the backfield; he’s currently the lead tailback, but the coaches are also comfortable with Tristen Bradley, Isaac Trent and Mitchell Johnson getting carries.
Four of the five offensive linemen positions were set as of Aug. 28; the Indians up front will be led by 6-3 junior Bradey Lindhjem at left tackle and will also feature sophomore and defensive standout Wyatt Lowe at left guard, junior Mason Hathaway at center and sophomore Mitch Bolt at right tackle. Henderson on Aug. 28 said that hopefully the Aug. 29 scrimmage against Atlee would identify the leading player at right guard; at the time, sophomore Tanner Palmore and junior Luke Beatty were in the rotation at that position.
“There’s a lot of talent there,” Henderson said of the team’s young offensive line, which has also been doing a lot of learning on the fly, including techniques, schemes and how to be a little more aggressive.
As the Indians get into games, they have a game plan to get the ball into the hands of playmakers Anthony Greenhow and Jaysun Carroll. They also have a standout receiver in 5-9, 145-pound junior Tye Morris, who, according to Henderson, is “the best technician we have at wide receiver right now.”
“He is just a real good, solid football player, has great hands and quarterbacks love him – he doesn’t drop anything,” Henderson said of Morris, “and he finds a way to get open.”
Henderson on Wednesday, Aug. 28 spoke to the team working on some of the mistakes they were making related to assignment football, attention to detail and not jumping off-sides.
“We’re getting better at it – we’re not where we need to be, but we’ve done some ball security drills,” Henderson said Aug. 28. “It’s good to identify where we’re weak, and we’re working to fix them, but by no means are we a finished product.”
“I’m happy with how we’re coming along, but we still have some work to do before we get to that first game,” Henderson added Aug. 28. “We’re getting there, and hopefully in another seven days or eight days, we’re there.”
Henderson described Game 1 versus Matoaca as “a great first test” for Powhatan.
“They’re certainly a very talented football team that is probably a pretty good indication of what we’re going to be seeing on a weekly basis,” Henderson said. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”